Thanks. “In July 2003, I was leading a team working near Karbala, clearing unexploded devices from their land.
On 2 July, I woke up, called my wife, jumped in the truck with my team and headed to a farmer’s field. I’d been at work for half an hour when the cluster bomb I was holding in my left hand detonated.
I lost my sight and hearing briefly; I thought I was going to die, but I was OK with that, as long as my wife and fellow Marines were safe.
Apparently I died twice; they had to restart me, like a car.
I lost my left hand, left eye and the thumb and index finger from my right hand. I had my right leg amputated above the knee.
In November 2004, I was asked to take part in the Dallas Veterans Day Parade; I sat in the front vehicle with other vets, then watched the parade from a podium. I noticed this man look up from the crowd below. I knew he was a Pearl Harbor veteran because of his hat.
He climbed the podium, walked up to me and gave me a big old hug. There was an unsaid understanding between us.
The picture was in the Dallas Morning News the following day, and then I started hearing from people – initially in Dallas, then from out of state, and then from people around the world. I’ve never wanted attention, but I appreciate this photograph has touched a lot of people. If it’s helped anyone move past hardships, then that’s great. But I’m not special: I’m just a guy who had a job to do, did it to the best of my ability, got hurt, came back, and had a picture taken.”
- Marine Staff Sergeant Mark Graunke